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Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Our world is filled with all kinds of new terms, like social distancing, face coverings and viral peaks. We could use a few new terms to describe the modern reality, which might give us greater control over the unsettling world around us. How about:

Zoom Staging: The process of setting up our best artwork and most intelligent books behind us. We might have read “War and Peace” or “Crime and Punishment” or “An American Tragedy” in college. It’s time to find those and put them on the shelves behind us, leading to a deep discussion about our favorite books as we wait for other people to join the calls. We could also add a few adorable pieces of incomprehensible artwork from our children that none of our coworkers would dare criticize.

Curbworld: Even though we’re opening up parts of the economy starting this week, we still can only do some retail shopping through curbside pickup. We have become a world that exists at the curb, where retail space goes untouched and where curbs have become the intersection of our outings and the stuff we bring home.

Googleversity: To some extent, we were living in this world before the virus, but search platforms have become a critical part of our children’s home learning environment. In addition to listening to a professor with a headset or air pods on, our children are also frantically searching the web in real time to answer questions about the War of 1812 or about theorems that sound vaguely familiar.

Coviracy Theories: The world was filled with conspiracy theories before President Donald Trump (R) came along and will have plenty of conspiracy theories after he leaves. Still, the preponderance of conspiracy theories related to the virus should have its own lexicon, as people have blamed everyone from foreign governments to incredibly rich and successful technology geniuses for the virus.

Insertcollege.edu: Up until now, people have graduated from colleges where they had unique, on site experiences. This year, that’s not the case, as distance learning seems to have become something of a commodity, with professors of all talent levels struggling to engage a group of people remotely. None of the books we have that are supposed to help with the college hunt — and we have plenty of them now with a high school junior and a college freshman in our midst — help us differentiate among the online platforms of the institutions of higher learning. It’s unclear how, if at all, any of these institutions stands out.

SWSD: Second Wave Stress Disorder. Over the last several weeks, we have heard plenty about a coming second wave. In fact, some colleges that are reopening their doors this fall, such as North Carolina State University, plan to start their semester early, go through fall break and then send students home for an extended break that they hope allows them to avoid a second wave at school.

91 Divoc Dreams: Given the dream world, it seems fitting that we reverse the order of COVID-19 to suggest the upside down world that haunts our dreams, which is a mixture of the realities of our daily fears, anxieties and discomforts blended with the imaginative world of science fiction drama that we beam into our bedrooms that distract and unnerve us.

Masksession: Some of us have become obsessed with the right not to wear a mask, even as others feel an urgency to ensure everyone wears masks. The mask discussion has become an obsession.

2020 No More: To finish the vernacular, we should no longer consider perfect vision to be 20-20 because, after all, 2020 sucks. We could change it to 21-21 or anything else, where we don’t need to link the perfect vision of hindsight to this imperfect year.

METRO photo

By Elof Axel Carlson

Elof Axel Carlson

Some of my friends and relatives since I was a high school student have told me that I know a lot. In one sense I do because I have an excellent retentive memory and can recall isolated facts that struck me as interesting at the time. 

In my high school history class, my teacher Mr. Emil, was groping for the name of a German reverend who opposed Hitler and was imprisoned for his preaching. I raised my hand and said, “Was it Pastor Niemöller?” I was looked upon as a freak by my classmates because I recalled this from listening to a radio program with my father and brother called This is the Enemy. 

I identified this talent as having “a flypaper memory.” If it’s significant to me, it sticks in my head. Of course, I also read a lot and since my father bought a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica when I was born in 1931, I browsed through it on rainy days and amassed enormous trivial knowledge from Japanese bonsai gardens to a graveyard (necropolis) of embalmed cats mummified by ancient Egyptians who worshipped a cat goddess, Bubastis (or Bastet).  

What I have learned over all these years of reading widely is that it would take centuries to read all there is to know of the known world and that as much as I have learned over the 88 years of my life so far, only gives me a small amount of the knowledge that exists.  

Furthermore, we don’t know how much of the universe works, whether it is life or the earliest stages of the birth of the universe. We don’t even know how many laws of science are yet to be discovered. 

But look at it this way. We live at best some 90 years today. Of recorded history (3000 years), that’s about 3 percent of the time humans have accumulated knowledge and written about it. No single person can read all the books in the Library of Congress, or the British Museum or the Vatican Library. This means when we try to solve concerns in our own lives and times, we are limited in the resources we can reasonably read relevant to what we want to do or solve. 

In a democracy we are diverse and have competing needs and priorities. We do as best we can with what we already know or with the help of others who know more than we know because their interests are slightly different from ours. It is this pooling of knowledge that allows us to do better than trying to “reinvent the wheel” each time we come across something new in our lives or our country’s experience. 

Complicating our ability to solve problems is the way we accept or reject evidence or information. We filter knowledge through mental prisms that include our religious beliefs, our ideological beliefs (liberalism versus capitalism, democracy versus authoritarianism, patriotism vs  criticism of government policy), or our professional habits (debate and amassing one sided briefs for those in legal professions including politics) and the apparently inconsistent findings science provides through experimentation and evidence (radiation is good for diagnosis and treatment but it also can cause harm to healthy cells or mutate genes in our gonads and pass them on to future generations.  

We like to have simpler ways of seeing things and doing things. But reality is often more complex, more intertwined with other things that make a simple approach difficult and often strewn with unintended consequences.  People who dump waste in rivers and lakes I believe are sincere when they feel that nature heals itself. But being sincere is not the same as being right and we have numerous episodes of smog, polluted rivers that kill off fish and other life in them and make our drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals. People are sincere also when they feel God looks after us or that the virtuous are spared in natural disasters .

Would 500 people huddle in a church during a tornado or would they rather be in several hundred separate underground shelters? The more complex the issues are in society, the more likely is it that there are no simple responses to them, and we need to listen to many and go with the best that we have available from our collective knowledge.  Unfortunately, informed debate is not always what we experience at the political level where decisions are made.  

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

News12 reporter Kevin Vesey is confronted by protesters at a rally in Commack on May 14. Photo by Rita J. Egan

At a recent rally, protesters of the lockdown asked why a reporter’s job was deemed essential when theirs weren’t. The question is a fair one, even though the way it was posed at a May 14 rally in Commack had reporters fearing for their safety.

Dissatisfied with the way News 12 Long Island’s Kevin Vesey reported a previous rally that took place May 1, protesters began to approach him aggressively as he took video footage with his smartphone for Facebook Live, which quickly went viral over the internet. First, there were two women with megaphones and then a few others joined in the shouting match. Vesey’s response was to keep backing up as he answered them calmly and continued recording.

One of our editors was also reporting on the scene and was on hand for the confrontation, moving in closer to hear the protesters’ concerns. It was concerning the way the small crowd questioned “who was essential” with such anger. With distrust in the media growing for years, exacerbated by constant “fake news” remarks, there seems to be less and less places safe enough for local reporters to simply report the news. 

If our reporter could have answered the question posed by the angry protesters and interrupted Vesey’s replies, she would have told them that if the media wasn’t deemed essential during this time, elected officials would only communicate with the public if they felt like it. They could put out whatever information they wanted to without being challenged.

President Donald Trump (R) did not calm the situation when he took the viral video of Vesey being confronted and lauded the small band of protesters, giving them and others the green light to their anti-free press rhetoric and intimidation. What should happen if Trump’s words result in violence toward journalists? 

What if that violence was directed at one of our members at our local newspaper? 

If we weren’t deemed essential, there would be no one there to ask the questions that are on people’s minds. You see, journalists are not creative writers. We don’t decide what we want to write every day and then make it up as we go along. We attend press conferences, we conduct interviews, we research — and we ask the questions that we believe are on our readers’ minds.

And when those in our coverage area have something to say, we print their letters to the editors, and we cover their events and rallies as best as we can. We do everything in our power to get the facts straight and to represent both sides of an issue if people on each side are willing to talk.

The Setauket Patriots, one of the organizers of the protests, apologized to Vesey for his treatment, saying they hope the reporter will offer fair coverage of the group’s events.

That is what reporters set out to do. Though we are forced to recognize we are human, and sometimes we make mistakes, a rally in Commack, New York, is not a place for such tense conflict. No reporters on such a scene should be fearful for their safety. We are there to relate what is on protesters’ minds in their own words.

While it’s understandable that people are in distress about their livelihoods, Vesey should have been approached in a less aggressive manner and with respect to personal space, especially when he obviously tried to respect the health of the people around him by wearing a mask and trying to keep 6 feet away.

Americans ask that the media be fair; we ask the same of Americans.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The weapons and uniforms are different, but the goals are the same: to protect the interests of Americans everywhere and to save lives.

Every year, Memorial Day presents an opportunity to honor the men and women who served our country in the military, as we appreciate their courage and sacrifice during battles against a range of enemies.

This year, we have a large group of people who are laying their lives on the line for the benefit of society. They are the first responders, who arrive at the homes of people stricken with symptoms of a disease that can make breathing difficult, that can give them a fever for days or even weeks.

They are the nurses who not only take the pulse and blood pressure of their patients, but also provide a human connection when those with the virus can’t have friends and family visit.

They are the doctors who use the best medicine at their disposal to provide comfort until a new standard of care is developed or a vaccine is created.

They are also the police and fire rescue teams that set aside their personal concerns about interacting with members of the community who might be sick to help strangers and the family members of those strangers.

Without these health care workers prepared to help in the struggle against a virus that never takes a weekend off or for which chicken soup, sleep or a hot shower are inadequate to ameliorate the symptoms, Long Islanders would be struggling on their own, infecting each other, and dying at even higher levels.

At the same time, people who work in other fields have been vital to the ongoing functioning of our society in the midst of the pandemic. The people who deliver packages and the mail have connected us to an outside world we can’t visit. They travel through our neighborhoods, wearing gloves and masks and bringing everything from Mother’s Day cards for the mothers and grandmothers we dare not visit lest we are an unsuspecting carrier of the deadly disease, to the paperwork we need to sign.

Those who work in grocery stores stock the shelves with the necessities and luxuries we snap up every week, as we continue to feed families huddled in our homes. Bus drivers and transit workers enable first responders, grocery store clerks, and others to get to and from their jobs.

In addition to accepting their normal responsibilities, these people also go to their jobs in a new normal that requires many of them to wash their clothing and shower before they interact with their family, which some of them only do while wearing masks.

Some of them have died in the line of duty. They have made the ultimate sacrifice because their difficult jobs haven’t provided them with an immunity from a virus that threatens everyone.

This Memorial Day, we should honor the fallen from past wars, the soldiers who fought in Europe 75 years ago, the ones deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, those who trudged through the jungles of Vietnam, and the patriots who ensured our freedom during the founding of the country.

We should also honor the fallen victims of the virus who were on the front lines, armed with personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and face coverings. 

When we wave our flags and honor those who gave their lives, we should pray for and thank the heroes of the last few months as well. They put themselves in harm’s way and inspired the rest of us with the same kind of courage we celebrate each year from our armed forces.

Cécile Rol-Tanguy with her husband Henri. Photo from public domain

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here is a script for the next Academy Award-winning film whenever we get back to making and viewing movies. It has all the right elements: white-knuckle suspense, bad guys, good guys, some who were both, Nazis, women of courage, men of valor, Charles de Gaulle, a love story, Auschwitz, a close family, children, heartbreak, resilience and especially a tale that truly happened. 

What’s it about? It is the life of Cécile Rol-Tanguy before and during WWII.

You probably never heard of her. I hadn’t until I read her obit. She died earlier this month at the age of 101 in Monteaux, 130 miles from Paris.  Born Marguerite Marie Cécile Le Bihan April 10, 1919, she was the daughter of Francois, an electrician who served in the French Navy and was a co-founder of the French Communist Party (PCF) in 1920. 

Cécile was raised in a highly politicized family that frequently hosted foreign communist agitators on the run from Italy, Germany and eastern European countries. As a communist, her father was arrested for the second time by the Nazis in 1943 and was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.

Cécile dropped out of school in 1936 and got a job with the Comite d’ Aide a la Espagne Republicaine, an organization helping the Republicans against Franco in Spain, and there she met Henri Rol-Tanguy, who was 11 years her senior and a fellow communist. He volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War, returned wounded in 1938, and they married in 1939 when she discovered she was pregnant. Sadly, she lost the baby girl in June 1940, two days before Paris fell to the German army. Shortly thereafter her father was arrested for the first time, and her husband, Henri, joined the French Resistance (Forces Francaises de l’Intérieur, or FFI).

Cécile too worked for the resistance, and when she gave birth to a second girl, Henri asked her to work elsewhere and leave the baby with her mother in case both of them were arrested. She refused.

They were separated during the war and were forced to hide their identities and their relationship, only communicating using code names. Cécile would adopt disguises and frequently change her hair style. She moved around Paris often hiding guns, grenades and clandestine newspapers in the baby’s stroller. She worked to set up a command post in an underground shelter, from which the couple received and distributed information and orders. Henri continued to move about the city, but Cécile felt confined to the headquarters, sending out communiques.

Then Aug. 19, 1944, the couple published and distributed a pamphlet calling the citizens of Paris to arms for a general mobilization, and, on Aug. 25, Paris was indeed liberated by the French division of the Allies’ army. In the underground, she said she could not hear the bells but she and the other women there celebrated by having a pillow fight.

Her husband went on to become an officer in the French Army, and while she was initially recognized for her efforts, Cécile felt that the many other women who had participated in the French Resistance at great peril to their lives were not. After the war and throughout the rest of her long life, she represented and advocated for recognition of the role of women in the French Resistance.

After 63 years of marriage, Henri died in 2002, and in 2008, Cécile was asked to become the Grand Officer of the Légion d’Honneur. Reluctant at first, she accepted the great distinction in the name of all the women resistance fighters whom she said were too often forgotten by history.

Cécile Rol-Tanguy died May 8, remarkably on the exact day of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe, known as VE Day. As she went along, giving lectures and interviews during her last years, she continually stressed the importance of fighting for one’s freedom. She wanted future generations to receive that message.

Fortunately, she lived long enough to see the reopening of the Musée de la Libération de Paris moved, in August 2019, to Place Denfert-Rochereau, the location of the underground from which she and her husband launched the insurrection that helped in the liberation of Paris. 

Photo from METRO

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Zooming has become a verb in the same way xeroxing did many years ago. When a product assumes an important role in daily life, the manufacturer’s name sometimes becomes the name for the process. So it was for many years with photocopying. And now, I don’t know about you, but for those of us who are working remotely even part of the week, participating in calls over the Zoom platform is a regular occurrence.

Who ever heard of Zoom before sheltering in place began? Well, maybe I did, but only as a possible growth stock to invest in, and running at $100 a share, it struck me as too expensive to be interesting. When I googled (another such example) the name, it was described as “an American communications technology company headquartered in San Jose, California. It provides videotelephony and online chat services … and is used for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education and social relations.” Until I actually went through “joining a meeting,” it had no relevance to my life.

Enter the pandemic and sheltering in place, and we all discovered that unlike some other high tech stuff, Zoom was easy to use and helpful for work and play. We now have departmental meetings and community board meetings via Zoom, and I enjoy weekly rendezvouses with my children and grandchildren. For now, seeing everybody is free.

Like all technical marvels, however, there are positives and negatives in connection with Zoom. After three Zoom meetings, each for two hours, in one day, I found that I was exhausted and feeling out of sorts. The first such day, I just assumed it had little to do with zooming. The next time, with a similar schedule and the same result, made me realize there was a cause-and-effect taking place, but I didn’t understand why.

Then I read, “Why Zoom Is Terrible,” a column in The New York Times by journalist Kate Murphy, that made a lot of sense. Before I share the particulars, I want to rush to say that I don’t think Zoom is terrible. I think it is what it is, like all new inventions that change one’s life: a miracle. However difficult our lives are today, imagine if there were no video conferencing available to us. Even physicians have embraced telemedicine as a substitute for office visits for now, but surely as a way of communicating with remote patients who cannot get to the office in a life-or-death emergency in the future.

There are, however, some drawbacks, as Murphy’s article explains, and we should be aware of them. The way the video images are “digitally encoded and decoded, altered and adjusted, patched and synthesized introduces all kinds of artifacts: blocking, freezing, jerkiness and out-of-sync audio. These disruptions, some below our conscious awareness, confound perception and scramble certain social cues. Our brains strain to fill in the gaps and make sense of the disorder, which makes us feel vaguely disturbed, uneasy and tired without quite knowing why.”

This explains a lot to me. Just the audio delay alone tends to make me speak more loudly to the screen than I would normally in an unconscious attempt to get my words to the listeners faster and get their responses back more quickly. After six hours of yelling alone, I can feel pretty tired. And when I look at the others on the grid, in a manner reminiscent of the television show, Hollywood Squares, I am not looking them in the eye. There is no eye contact, and often people are actually looking at themselves — checking out their hair and whether their collar is covering their chicken neck.

We are, as the author points out, “exquisitely sensitive to one another’s facial expressions …and [that is] essential to our understanding of one another.” But such subtleties are frozen, smoothed over or delayed on the screen, however hard we might strain to see them, hence our fatigue and even a bit of alienation.

So now you know. And by the way, Zoom is now selling at $164.55 a share. I never bought it.

Johness Kuisel with her granddaughter Caroline

Kyle Barr – Deborah Barr

Kyle Barr, right, with his mom Deborah and his twin brother, Kris

She was working even when she wasn’t. After coming home from her job as a secretary for an attorney in Riverhead, my mom would fret about what my family was going to eat for dinner. It didn’t matter if most of the people left in the house were self-sufficient, Mom was going to make something for everyone, she was going to vacuum the floor, she was going to start the laundry, and by 10 p.m. she would be snoring on the couch, as if her batteries were depleted and no amount of coaxing would get her to restart without a recharge.

I think I’ve got my sensibilities toward work from you, for either good or ill. By your example, I finish what I start, even in times like this. I don’t do things halfway, because each thing should be treated with care.

That is, at work, at least. I know you would still be ashamed to see the way I keep my home.

 

Courtney and Caroline Biondo – Johness Kuisel

Johness Kuisel with her granddaughter Caroline

To us, Johness is Mom and Granny. 

My mom is the driving force not only of my life, but for 44 years has been the heart and soul of Times Beacon Record newspapers. She is the epitome of class. She teaches me to always be my very best and always put forth my very best effort, more importantly as a mother myself.

Our Granny is the one to watch college football with on Saturdays, the NFL on Sundays and basketball during the week. Granny is always up for a trip to the beach to lounge in the sun and collect shells. Granny likes to sit with a cat in her lap after a long day and sip a Bloody Mary. Granny teaches us to never give up, because you’re often closest to succeeding when you want to forfeit. She teaches us to explore through travel and to always be eager to learn new things.

 

Daniel Dunaief – Leah Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief with his mom Leah 

When I was young, my mother started these papers. When I called her at work, Mrs. Kuisel answered, much as she does now. “Can I speak to my mom?” I asked. Mrs. Kuisel asked me who my mother was because so many mothers worked at the papers. The question is one I’m happy to answer every day. I’m proud to say that who I am and who my brothers are begins with being numbers 1, 2 and 3 sons of Leah Dunaief. Sure, my younger brother and I might argue about the order of importance, but we are all grateful to have learned numerous important lessons, including never to wear jeans in the ocean or to use apple juice to clean our faces, from a woman we’re fortunate to call mom. I wish her and all the other moms dealing with the ever-fluid new normal a happy Mother’s Day.

 

Rita J. Egan – Rita M. Egan

Rita Egan with her mom Rita

When I was a kid in Queens, more mothers were beginning to go to work full time, outside of the home. My mother was no different. At first, she worked as a cashier at Alexander’s Department Store, but she knew she needed to make more money, and she soon took a night class to brush up on her typing and shorthand. After a few different jobs, she eventually found herself working for Con Edison in its transportation department. She lived in Queens when she first began working there but eventually moved out to Smithtown. She would be up before the sun, even leaving before sunrise to catch the train, and while she soon became part of a carpool, the more convenient ride didn’t stop the early morning rush to be at the office by 7 a.m. I may not have inherited my mother’s knack for getting up before the crack of dawn, but I would like to think I take after her when it comes to getting up every morning and doing whatever it is that needs to be done, even when times are rough.

While Mother’s Day may be celebrated a little bit differently this year, here’s hoping we can all find some way to celebrate all the special women in our lives.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” is a poem written by the great Walt Whitman as an elegy for the great Abe Lincoln, who died around this time in May of 1865. For me, it too honors my mother, whom I also regard as great, as I guess we all do our mothers, if in a more personal context. I think of my mother whenever lilacs bloom because she loved the flower, with its heart-shaped leaves and its perfume fragrance, and because she died right around Mother’s Day when, to me also in her honor, lilacs bloom.

My mother grew up in the earliest years of the 20th century in Corona, a then-countrified section of Queens in New York City. She told us that on her way to elementary school, she sometimes had to wait for the cows in front of her to finish crossing the road, which is certainly a different picture than what I saw of the neighborhood when I was shown the house in which she and her siblings, parents and maiden aunt lived. (That last is an expression from a century ago.) She also lovingly described the backyard as “completely filled with lilac bushes whose scent filled the entire block.”

My mother was the bridge for her parents and older siblings between the Ukraine, from which they emigrated, speaking not a word of English, and America, the repository of their dreams. She was probably 4 years old when they arrived and moved into the house on Corona Avenue, and she was sent off to school where she learned the language and brought it home, along with the ways of the new country. That she was bright must have been apparent to the teachers because she was skipped grades twice during those early years and graduated from junior high or middle school when she was 11. Although she yearned to go on to high school and college, her father had suffered a debilitating stroke, and she, along with her older brother and sister, were obligated to work and support the family of nine. She won a scholarship to what was then called a “business school,” where she learned in record time to be a credentialed bookkeeper and was hired as such by a man named Mr. Mosler, a member of the well-known family that made Mosler Safes and Vaults.

My mother worked all her life, arranging her work hours somehow around the responsibilities of caring for my father and three children. She was well ahead of her time, of course, as a “businesswoman,” but apparently neither she nor my father thought it odd that she should have a work life outside the home. It was apparent to me at an early age that she was different from the mothers of my friends. She didn’t bake cakes or cookies, was a terrible cook — except during holidays when she focused on preparing delicious meals — didn’t knit and didn’t seem interested in stylish clothes. Indeed, it would have been strange had she been restricted to the home for all her adult life since she was both worldly and had a manner that I would today call “commanding,” despite her short stature. She was occasionally asked if she were a lawyer.

For all of that veneer, my mother was generous, warm and affectionate with all of us, had a great laugh, had a close and supportive relationship with my father, and together they provided a safe and nurturing home in which we were raised.

My mother reaches the level akin to sainthood, in my opinion, because of the way she welcomed and raised my younger sister, who had Down syndrome. Despite the prevailing attitudes then, in 1942 when my sister was born, of stigma and institutionalization, my mother insisted that my sister had a right to a “normal” life within the family and to learn and grow to the fullest extent of her capability.

Again, my mother was way ahead of her time. 

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Derek has eaten more pizza in the past six weeks than he has in the previous three years. Heather feels like an insect, trapped late in the night in the electric glow of her screen. Steve drinks too much Coke Zero and Eliene stays up way too late and wears the same pants too often.

In response to email questions, several Long Islanders shared their healthiest and least healthy habits during the lockdown.

Derek Poppe, who is a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has been able to work off some of the pizza he’s eating at lunch by running outside, which he started doing after the gym he has attended for seven years closed seven weeks ago.

“I have also tried my hand at meditation which has been incredible since, really, from the time we wake up to when we go to bed, we are surrounded by all things COVID-19,” Poppe wrote in an email.

Bellone, meanwhile, rides his Peloton stationary bike early in the morning or late at night. The county executive also sometimes runs at 10:30 p.m. before beginning to prepare for the next morning’s meetings and radio calls.

Bellone’s least healthy habits include ramping up his consumption of Coke Zero.

Sara Roncero-Menendez from Stony Brook, meanwhile, walks around her neighborhood on sunny days. When the weather gets rough, she does YouTube yoga. She’s also been crocheting and cross-stitching, getting a head start on holiday gifts.

“It’s been a good way to keep busy and actually have something to show for it at the end,” Roncero-Menendez wrote.

Like many others in New York and around the world, Roncero-Menendez has spent too much time glued to her screens and also hasn’t been sleeping well.

Karen McNulty-Walsh from Islip does 30 minutes of yoga, takes her dog for walks, and gets out of bed regularly between 6 and 7 a.m. each morning.

Pete Genzer from Port Jefferson Station has been cooking dinner every night, which is “good in terms of eating healthy food, and I also really enjoy cooking so it’s mentally stimulating and relaxing.”

Genzer’s least healthy habit is “sitting in the same, non-ergonomic chair all day long doing work and attending virtual meeting after virtual meeting.”

Larry Swanson and his wife Dana, who live in Head of the Harbor, enjoy their daily walks with their aging Chesapeake Bay retriever Lily. Dana is growing food in the yard and has found it a “new, interesting and nice experience being with her grumpy old husband for so much for the time,” Larry Swanson wrote.

Indeed, in the 56 years of their marriage, the Swansons have never spent as much time as they have together during lockdown.

Dana’s unhealthiest habit is watching the news.

Heather Lynch from Port Jefferson said she feels like the insect trapped in the glowing screen. On the positive side, she continues to work out every day, which she describe as more of an addiction than a habit.

Eliene Augenbaum, who lives in the Bronx and works on Long Island, has eaten home-cooked food and had deep conversations with friends. On the unhealthy side, she stays up too late, wears the same pants, and shops for vacations and shoes that are of little use during lockdown.

A friend from New York City, who makes her own meals and walks her dogs, takes her temperature several times a day, has eaten her emergency, huge bag of Chex mix in one sitting and obsesses over why everyone else has medical-style masks on the street while she’s seeking viral protection behind a pillowcase wrapped around her head.

The community came out to wish Chris Pendergast a happy birthday last Tuesday. Photo courtesy of ALS Ride for Life Facebook

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The summer is fast approaching. The pandemic continues to paralyze the world and our country. However, there genuinely is a spirit of hope that is emerging. 

People need to stay focused. Unfortunately, the mixed messages coming from Washington make it difficult at times for people to believe. We should not get distracted by their incompetence. Listen to the professional voices who know, who are reminding us to be cautious, careful and respectful.

In the midst of all of this chaos and craziness how blessed we are with the random acts of kindness emerging all over the country in every state of our union. Locally, there have been countless signs of gratitude to our medical community and their support staff, to our first responders, EMS workers and our police. We are grateful to those that are staffing our food stores and other essential services, risking their lives every day so that our lives might be safe and reasonable.

There will be a time in the future where we will look back upon this pandemic and be mindful of the life lessons it has taught us. This virus was not man-made; it came upon us because of our planet. It is a powerful reminder that we need to be more attentive to the environment and environmental issues. We need to be conscious not to senselessly pollute the air and our water. We need to be mindful of climate change and global warming and act sensibly to protect the earth and the lives of future generations.

One of the powerful life lessons we need to reflect upon is we are America, not the people who we have elected. It is time for us to lead, to stand up, to be counted and to challenge the bureaucrats to build bridges and not walls; to bring us together like so many ordinary Americans have done across the country during this time of crisis. 

I have been inspired and encouraged by the powerful witness and example of ordinary Americans sharing, caring and reaching beyond themselves to help others and expecting nothing in return!

On April 28 more than 100 cars, motorcycles and bicycles gathered in the parking lot of the North Country Road School in Miller Place. This spontaneous caravan of people of all ages and from all places came to celebrate the birthday of a very courageous man within our community, Dr. Christopher Pendergast. He is a teacher, a scientist, a researcher, a writer and a powerful symbol of hope in a world that often hovers in despair. We gathered on that Tuesday to celebrate his 71st birthday. Twenty-eight years ago he was diagnosed with ALS. He wasn’t expected to live but just a few years. His courage, his tenacity and his love of life have sustained him during these past challenging years.

Today, although very disabled, he continues to be a beacon of hope for all of us who are privileged to know him and spend time with him. He continues to raise our consciousness about the importance of ALS research and leads by example. How fitting for this spontaneous caravan with signs and balloons to surprise him and drive past his house to say thank you for his gift of life! That’s the real America I believe in.

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.